(HealthDay News) – The prevalence of open-angle glaucoma has increased more than 20% in the last 10 years and currently affects more than 2.7 million Americans aged ≥40 years, according to a report from Prevent Blindness America and the National Eye Institute.

Researchers from Prevent Blindness America, and other leading vision and eye health groups have declared January National Glaucoma Awareness Month in an effort to educate the public on glaucoma. Noting that symptoms develop very gradually, glaucoma can damage central vision if left untreated over time.

According to the report, more than 2.7 million Americans aged ≥40 have open-angle glaucoma, an increase of more than 22% from 10 years ago. Risk factors for glaucoma include age, family history, nearsightedness, eye injury and surgery, use of steroids, and race. Compared with whites, blacks are five times more likely to have glaucoma and four times more likely to go blind from it. Compared with other groups, Hispanics are more likely to develop glaucoma after age 60. Statins may be effective in the early stages of disease or for prevention, with the risk of glaucoma reduced by 8% for hyperlipidemia patients who took statins continuously for two years.

“As we begin 2013, we hope that everyone’s New Year’s resolution will be to make their eye health a priority and schedule an eye exam,” Hugh R. Parry, president and chief executive officer of Prevent Blindness America, said in a statement. “Through early detection and treatment, we can help lessen the effects of glaucoma and other eye diseases on vision.”

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